What a fantastic event last night, with Appletree Writers for Book Week Scotland. We even had free cake! The wonderful Hannah Lavery made a terrific effort to embrace the audience with a range of free handouts, coinciding with the launch of two great anthologies: In on the Tide and Harbour (the proceeds from which go to the RNLI).
First up, the indefatigable and ubiquitous poet/editor Ian Hunter treated us to six or seven of his best (culminating in some cruel advice on the misuse of staple removers!). Then, up-and-coming debut novelist Sam Best delivered his Harbour poem, followed by a spectacular extract from his novel based around friends in a bar dissecting the filthy problem of Scottishness.
Alice Mitchell proceeded to change the tone once more, with very lyrical and sensitive poems (some concerning the delights of gardens and flowers, others likening wind turbines to Giacometti sculptures and “butchers with three blades each cutting into an astonished sky”). Next, Roy Moller‘s rollicking poems swept us along, concluding in a masterpiece of self-deprecation (about being ridiculed and mistreated as a schoolboy for having a Danish name and poor coordination).
Then, another change of tack – George Pirie read us an extraordinary sample of his novel about Britain’s first televised execution. The audience were riveted by this searing piece of social satire, as a ‘Big Brother’ style talent show decided who was going to get the prize – and natty outfit! – of being voted Executioner on the big day. A salutary warning.
The great G. W. Colkitto (or George Walker, to his drinking buddies) subsequently bewitched us with his beautiful evocations of lost happiness on Bamburgh Beach and Lindisfarne. This was before turning to the uplifting humour of his essay about the spurious possibilities of suicide by ankle slitting! Things got sillier after that, with a long poem written in invented Scots concerning “the dreaded mugged muck”.
Finally, Hannah Lavery herself provided an intensely moving end to the evening, with a story about the Clash T-shirt with which she won the love of her husband-to-be (and the tragic parallel between the happy birth of her first daughter, and her best friend’s loss of her first child).
What can we say? These may not be “well-known writers” by some people’s criteria, but the standard of work was superb and superbly diverse; truly one of our very best evenings, so far this year. Thanks to all who turned out; to the writers who read, to Hannah for hosting, and to the Scottish Book Trust for this overarching inspiration of a week in which to celebrate literature and the act of reading. I’d say we did so in style!